Garry Linnell, who has just departed as editor of the Daily Telegraph, is not normally slow to say his piece. Which makes his silence this morning on the question of why he has left News Limited rather deafening. Was there ever a more naked euphemism than “leaving to pursue other interests”?
His mobile phone rings out, and his PA has been in touch to say “he is not talking to anyone at the moment”.
Meanwhile, asked whether the rumour that there has been a falling out is true, the editor in chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, replied also with uncharacteristic brevity. His return email read:
“I have never had a harsh word with Gary(sic) and in fact barely know him. Chris”
That seems unusual, given the normal cosiness of the News Limited editors’ carousel. If the two men hardly know each other, one would be tempted to ask why not.
It is safe to say that Linnell, who started his career at The Melbourne Age and has also edited the now defunct Bulletin magazine and headed up news and current affairs at Channel Nine, is not a News Limited man in the DNA-rusted-on-singing-the-club-song fashion that is true of most of the editors’ club. Life in News Limited can be tough, career limiting even, for those who don’t fit with the culture.
And there were those internally this morning who were prepared to stick the boot into Linnell on a confidential basis, as well as staff at the Tele who were in grief. He was a popular boss.
But in the senior ranks, the story being told is that the paper was rudderless, that Linnell was not a shirt sleeves editor and left too early in the evenings, and on the sniping goes. Remember that those who leave News Limited in less than happy circumstances are Unforgiven with a capital ‘U’, as others have attested.
Meanwhile News Limited’s Media Diary columnist Caroline Overington seems to be writing around something in her reporting of the moves on the deck at Holt Street. Yet even Ms Overington declares that in her opinion Linnell “…did a superb job at the Telegraph, and he’s going to be missed by a heap of people, who liked working for him.”
For those who haven’t caught up with all this yet, Paul Whittaker has taken over Linnell’s job at the Daily Telegraph. Whittaker is not only the loyal lieutenant but also a good friend over many years of Chris Mitchell, who as editor in chief of The Oz is one of the most singular and polarising men in Australian media.
Apparently there was tension recently after Linnell poached Malcolm Conn, the sports opinion writer, from The Australian. Conn begins at the Tele next week.
But I understand that is not the reason for the rapid moves, and of course it would be strange if it were so. Nevertheless it has clearly not endeared Linnell to all his colleagues.
Only a short while ago it was understood that Linnell was intended for higher things at News Limited. Suddenly he is out altogether. I understand that Whittaker got the message that he was taking over the Tele only very recently, and that it came as something of a surprise.
The other rumour is that Linnell is about to sign on at The Age. This, for the moment at least, is not true. There have been no talks, although it is generally agreed that it would be surprising if Fairfax Media are not in touch with him soon. Over there, Linnell is considered to be a considerable talent, and News Limited’s loss.